Is our landlord allowed to monitor our internet?
May 11, 2007 1:14 PM   Subscribe

It seems our new office building's landlord is monitoring and logging our internet traffic. Is this OK?

So my work recently moved into a new building. As a part of our leasing agreement we were allowed full use of the building owner's internet. I won't go into details on how I found out, but it looks like all web traffic for this connection is being "logged" to a server in-house. Nothing is actively being blocked, yet, but we obviously have some privacy concerns about this. I realize that the landlord can do what they want with their own employees, who work in the same building as us and were probably the original reason this was done, but is this really OK to do with us as tenants? If not, does anyone have suggestions on what recourse we can or how I should approach them with this?
posted by negatendo to Law & Government (13 answers total)
If you're using someone else's internet connection, you sort of have to live by their rules.
posted by birdherder at 1:18 PM on May 11, 2007 [2 favorites]

The best way to prevent this is to get your own internet connection.
posted by yohko at 1:21 PM on May 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Or run an ssh tunnel past the firewall.
posted by zeoslap at 1:26 PM on May 11, 2007

Or run an ssh tunnel past the firewall.

A good suggestion on the surface, but that tunnel needs somewhere to go. If you're willing to pay for a machine to tunnel to and internet access for that machine, you might as well cut out the middleman and get your own internet access.
posted by dr_dank at 1:31 PM on May 11, 2007

Seems to me like it depends on what is in your lease - both in terms of overall privacy rights and specifically with regard to the internet connection issue. Office leases are notoriously long and complicated. Review the lease to determine what rights you may have granted the landlord.
posted by krudiger at 1:48 PM on May 11, 2007

Use tor?
posted by SirStan at 1:52 PM on May 11, 2007

I won't go into details on how I found out, but it looks like all web traffic for this connection is being "logged" to a server in-house.

This answer depends a bit on some of those details. That is, how do you know its the landlord and not somebody else doing the snooping? Regardless, it presents one possible angle of approach:

You: Oh hey, we know a bit about networking and thought you should know that your server is logging all Internet traffic. Thats not a typical case.

Landlord: Oh we know. We've enabled logging.

You: Ok. That certainly makes sense for your company and your employees. But we'd prefer to be exempt from this. For one thing, we exchange a lot of confidential information with our clients and there is a high expectation of privacy involved.

That is, you can also present it as a business concern as above rather than as some ACLU issue.
posted by vacapinta at 2:35 PM on May 11, 2007

The question is, will getting your own ISP help, or is that just changing the person that's logging your internet activity? (This is not a troll/snark, it's a genuine question, I do gather, though, that many ISPs keep similar records)
posted by RustyBrooks at 2:41 PM on May 11, 2007

As I understand it, if the traffic being logged were telephone voice traffic, this would be thoroughly and unequivocally illegal. Dunno how that affects IP traffic, but I bet you could muddy the legal situation a bit by using VoIP.
posted by hattifattener at 6:27 PM on May 11, 2007

How about writing a little script that tries to retrieve http://LANDLORDS.SHOULDNT.SPY/ about a billion times so that it shows up in whatever statistics they look at. If they read the logs by hand then they won't miss it, either.

Actually, this should work:
wget --tries=1000000 --retry-connrefused --timeout=1 --delete-after

Choose your own statute.
posted by rhizome at 7:03 PM on May 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Well, since ISPs do this all the time to customers, and you're basically using this guy as your ISP (which, for the record, I think is a really bad idea, if your business has non-trivial requirements/uses for the Internet), I don't think you have much of a case.

At best, maybe you could go to the landlord and say that you'd like to work on some sort of a TOS agreement, where they'll outline in writing what sort of logging they do, and under what circumstances they'll disclose it, and to whom, and with what provisions for notifying you. If they don't agree to do this (and I agree that presenting it as a business case is a good approach) then I think you should get your own ISP.

The only circumstance where I think this would be OK would be if you were a satellite office of a larger company, and all your traffic was being tunneled through an encrypted connection to the home office (via SSH or a VPN). Then it wouldn't matter what sort of logging he was doing -- all you'd care about was whether your encrypted packets were making it through. But without a secure server on the outside for the endpoint of the tunnel, this isn't really an option.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:14 PM on May 11, 2007

Looking at it from your landlord's perspective, if you are using them basically as your isp they may have legal concerns of their own; they may feel that they need the capability to monitor how you are using the connection they provide.
posted by londongeezer at 1:11 AM on May 12, 2007
posted by cmicali at 5:29 AM on May 12, 2007

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